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Reflection 22 (p7 - cont)
Why Do Right? A Secularist's Answer

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Why should we be good? Theologians would have us believe that the only satisfactory reply to such a query must come from Christianity. But, as we have already shown, the Christian's reasons for being good are both selfish and ineffectual. We hope to show that there are better reasons for goodness than the desire to please God and to secure everlasting happiness in "realms beyond." The theological delusion, that religion alone supplies the motive for personal excellence, has arisen through people entertaining the erroneous idea that natural means are impotent to cure the evils that dominate society. It has, however, been discovered that vice must be dealt with like all else that is human. A supernatural remedy for moral disease appears to the student of nature no more reasonable than a supernatural cure for any of the physical diseases which "flesh is heir to." When a man feels the pangs of some physical malady, he knows that there is some derangement in the organ in which it occurs; in addition to applying a remedy, if he be wise, he will endeavor to discover the cause, so as to avoid the malady in future. Now, Secularists consider that the same coarse should be taken with moral diseases, which often arise from a morbid condition of the brain, produced sometimes by the bad arrangements of society, or through not acting up to the proper duties of life. Virtue and vice are not mere accidents of the time, but are as much the consequence of the operation of natural laws as the falling of a stone or the growth of a flower. The causes of crime should be investigated as carefully as the causes of cholera and other epidemics have been. The physical and the moral are more closely connected than is generally supposed, and the influence of the one upon the other is beyond all doubt very great. Man's mental and moral natures both depend upon material organs, and are therefore influenced by physical forces; and it is not unusual for the same causes that generate disease to produce crime. So little, however, do people study the relation of mind to brain that vice prevails where, with a little judicious thought and action, virtue might be found. The Secularist acknowledges these important facts, and, expecting no supernatural help, he goes earnestly to work himself. Holding that whatever happens occurs in accordance with some law, he deems it his business to endeavor to ascertain what that law is, that he may turn it to some practical account.

We think that with the extensive knowledge which now exists, allied with intellectual culture, it is not difficult to demonstrate that man ought to do his duty for reasons which belong alone to this life. By the word "duty" we here mean an obligation to perform actions that have a tendency to promote the personal and general welfare of the community. This obligation is imposed upon us by the requirements of society. For instance, the Secular obligation to speak the truth is obtained from experience, which teaches that lying and deceit tend to destroy that confidence between man and man which has been found to be necessary to maintain the stability of mutual societarian intercourse.

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